There Democrats Go Again: Racism Cry Is Desperate

Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:52pm

One is almost tempted to say to Jimmy Carter, “There you go again,— with his charge that opposition to President Barack Obama and his health care plan is based upon race. Indeed, there is a past history for Carter in making charges.

In 1976 in the Democratic presidential primaries, he looked the other way while his campaign surrogates accused Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.) of condoning racism (overlooking the fact that Carter had actually been elected governor of Georgia by appearing as a friend of Alabama Democratic Gov. George Wallace in 1970, only to change his stripes once elected). Again in the general election campaign he allowed such attacks against Gerald Ford. In 1980, with his political plight grave, Carter accused his opponent Ronald Reagan of being a closet racist who would divide black and white. The reaction was so bad that Carter had to go on television with Barbara Walters to deny he was mean-spirited. Voters weren’t buying it along with the economy and the Iranian hostages, and they voted in Reagan.

Yet this time Carter is not alone with the histrionics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused opponents of the health care plan of being Nazis and un-American. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written in her column that racism was implied in Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) ill-advised “You lie!— moment. Normally rational Reps. David Scott and Hank Johnson, both Georgia Democrats, have jumped on this wagon as well.

After the backlash against Carter’s remarks (similar to that toward his 1980 remarks), Democrats from the White House on down have been running from Carter and saying that he does not speak for them. Let there be no doubt: Carter’s remarks just as Dowd’s column were trial balloons to see how much the Democrats could attack and get away with on opponents of health care reform. The charges of racism date back to the first tea parties when guests on MSNBC charged racism and nobody reported it.

The charges are born out of desperation and frustration just as Carter’s irresponsible and groundless attacks against Reagan were in 1980. Democrats read the election results of 2008 as an ideological realignment akin to Reagan’s election in 1980. What they misread was the mood of the electorate. While voters rejected Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Republicans, they remained conservative. Indeed, much of the Republican debacle can be blamed on frustration by voters that Republicans had betrayed their conservative principles. Democrats overlooked the exit polls, which showed that a clear majority of Americans are conservative or right of center.

Democrats were so heady in their victory from 2008 and the Republicans so demoralized that the Democrats were convinced they could enact anything they wanted. What they did not expect was the voter anger that was rising with each new piece of legislation they passed. This has been particularly significant among independent voters whose voting for the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 was supposed to symbolize a realignment. Polls now show these voters supporting Republicans in numbers to jeopardize the Democratic control of the House and cost Democrats at least six Senate seats, including that of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

This wasn’t the way that it was supposed to be, Democrats told themselves. With former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney off in retirement, they couldn’t blame them for the voter anger over health care and the wrecking of their dreams. So they latched on to the lowest common denominator possible — charge racism and hope it sticks with the media. Additionally, by charging racism, Democrats hope they can shame independent voters to prove that they are not racists by rethinking their opposition to health care legislation.

There is precedent for this — Democrats did it in 1964 against Barry Goldwater after his vote based on constitutional grounds against the Civil Rights Act. When polls showed support for Goldwater among white independents, Democrats ran a shame campaign to get independents to vote Democratic to prove they were not racists.

Yet all of the name-calling is not helping the Democrats or President Obama. Opposition continues to grow against the health care plan, and no matter what happens on the issue, voters will be angry. Support for Republicans continues to increase.

Two bellwethers of this will be the upcoming gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia where the Democratic candidates have identical levels of support — in the high 30s. So for every charge of racism that is leveled, just say, “There you go again,— because it’s the last play of their playbook and indicates the depths of despair and frustration that have overtaken the Democrats after only eight months in power. It will be a long and heated time between now and November 2010, but with Carter’s words, the end is in sight.

David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and public affairs agency that sometimes works for Republican candidates. He can be reached at djohnson@strategicvision.biz.